I have 51 slaves working for me, according to an innovative and entertaining survey I took today at slaveryfootprint.org. After taking an inventory of my life habits, including diet, technology use, and wardrobe, the survey estimated how many slaves were probably involved at some level of the supply chain in the products I use daily. The creators of the survey aim to create awareness about unethical sourcing of raw materials, which is a huge contributing factor to the 29 million slaves working across many global industries. Made In A Free World is creating a movement of businesses & consumers who use their voices and their collective buying power to persuade their favorite brands to ensure that their raw materials aren’t being mined, picked, or farmed by slaves.
I was researching current stats on modern-day slavery because The Aurora Crossing is performing & speaking about human trafficking at FCC North Hollywood on November 25th @ 7pm. (You can come! It’s gonna be awwwwwwesome.) The goal of the evening is to raise awareness about modern-day slavery and provide ways for people to respond with effective, compassionate action. After a couple of hours of browsing YouTube videos of CNN special reports and trafficking documentaries, I was completely toast. I definitely needed to be snuggled. I was angry, impassioned, hopeless, and overwhelmed.
Fortunately, my friend Jessica called and I offloaded my thoughts, sans filter. Mostly, we just asked questions without answers. (What vulnerabilities allow people to get trafficked? How will it stop? Is prevention more important than aftercare? Is giving money enough? Is prostitution ever a woman’s choice? Is working in sweatshop more dignified than starving? Are we even asking the right questions?)
The only conclusions I drew were these. I think there are 3 different ways people participate in the evil of modern-day slavery.
First, some people knowingly perpetrate crimes directly against other humans, for profit or pleasure. These are traffickers, pimps, crime syndicates, Johns, and businesses who willingly utilize forced labor.
Secondly, some people participate in these crimes indirectly, by not pursuing justice when they are fully aware and witness to slavery, for profit or power. These are corrupt police officers and government officials, hotel owners, bar owners, ordinary citizens, etc. These people are typically paid off for their silence.
Thirdly, some people unknowingly and indirectly participate in crimes against other humans through their consumerism. This is, um, everyone.
There is currently no standardized measure that allows consumers to track whether their products are slavery free (although Made In A Free World is developing one). That information would give all of us choice about how we want to participate with those brands. Until we can know, however, our blind consumerism is fueling the demand for cheap (or free) labor that is daily stealing the dignity of men, women, and children.
But what can I do about that? Stop shopping at TJ Maxx for my cheap deals? …..I’ll be honest. I take great pride in how little I can spend on an outfit. It’s a game. Just check out #maxxinista on Twitter! So… Should I only wear anti-slavery t-shirts or hippie outfits that were hand sewn by somebody in a commune in Northern California? Should I grow my own cotton?
According to Made In A Free World, I can use my voice to influence the companies I already support with my dollars. Many brands, due to the mass globalization of materials sourcing, aren’t aware that their raw materials may be handled by slaves. Made In A Free World has a sweeping economic-driven vision that includes uniting consumers, businesses, non-profits, and governments under the shared value of slavery-free production.
Slavery… is an “all of us” issue. It’s consumers, non-profits, academics, governments, community groups, and businesses working together. Made In A Free World is a place where all of us can leverage our unique strengths and global influence. Consumers can’t point fingers. Governments can’t shirk rule of law. And Businesses can’t look the other way. Made In A Free World makes it possible to work together in order to achieve more than we possibly can do alone. We’ve brought together millions of committed consumers from every country in the world ready to support businesses who demonstrate their shared value of freedom. We’re working with top researchers and analysts to empirically identify where slavery is mostly prevalent. We’ve partnered with leading non-profits in the field to implement sustainable change. We’re coordinating with some of the highest governmental offices in the world to codify our values. We’ve influenced some of the largest global enterprises whose buying power can… influence global markets.
Their website makes it easy for us to invite (encourage? persuade? demand?) our favorite brands to commit to transparency in their supply chains. On average, a brand responds after receiving 363 letters from consumers.
Further, they are encouraging consumers to shop with their values and support businesses who are committed to slavery free goods. According to their website, the average (1st world) person spends about $4,500 annually on products created with forced labor. So far, 1.5 million people worldwide have joined them to take a stand against unethical sourcing. Collectively, that adds up to $6.2 BILLION dollars each year to influence global markets.
The issue of modern-day slavery can leave us feeling numb, overwhelmed, and helpless. Often, we hear about atrocities but have no idea what we can do to make a difference. The Aurora Crossing is committed to not talking about human trafficking unless we give you a way to respond with a small action, even if it is just to grow in awareness.
So where do we start? What can we do? Apparently we don’t all have to become homesteaders or move to the prairie to live ethical lives. So here’s today’s assignment, kids:
Take it a step further and ask your favorite brand to commit to a Free World, by clicking here.